Forgetting that the Beijing Marathon was skirting my neighborhood this morning, I set out at 9:45 on my way to a 10:30 church service downtown. Big mistake. By the time I exited my housing estate and hit Bei Wa Road, it had become a parking lot, thanks to so many area roads being closed down. My plan had been to take a taxi to the new subway station at the zoo, but every taxi had someone inside and was not moving. I looked south to see if there was a bus coming. I spotted one up by Ling Long Road, but it was in the middle of the melee and clearly not going anywhere.
By 10:15 a neighbor and colleague showed up on the street, also with plans to get to an 11:30 service at another church. We were both torn between frustration at not being able to get to where we were going and bemusement at the unfolding chaos. How Chinese drivers jam and unjam themselves is really an art form, and the whole community was spilling into the streets to watch.
About the time we decided to walk out to the the 3rd Ring Road, we heard the sound of music and fireworks coming from the hotel on the corner. A wedding procession. But not just an ordinary wedding procession, this one was complete with revelers in Qing Dynasty costumes, an old-fashioned sedan chair, and a horse. It looked like a 19th century village wedding, and here it was playing itself out on Bei Wa Road. The bride emerged from the hotel and got into the sedan chair, the groom (decked out in his Qing Dynasty finest) mounted the horse, and off they went into the middle of the traffic jam, musicians and other courtesans in tow. Somehow, they made it through, and headed off down the empty part of the street, leaving the chaos behind.
My friend and I roared. Even after 25 years in China, I can still stumble into a “just when I think I’ve seen it all” event.
We finally made it out of the area on a very crowded bus by 11, and I got to the church at 11:30, just as the service was ending. At least I made it in time to eat noodles with friends.
The wedding procession heading into the traffic jam
Oops. The groom’s gotta make a call. Wei! Wei! Wei!
Having gotten through the melee, the go merrily on their way!
(thanks to KG for the photos)